The murder of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans irrupted into the presidential election campaign yesterday, with the candidates sharply criticizing each other’s response to the incident.
The fatal attack by a mob in Benghazi, which might have been a coordinated terrorist assault, played directly into an existing undercurrent of the battle for the White House, with Mitt Romney hurling allegations of weakness, appeasement and “apology” at the incumbent, and President Obama countering that his challenger lacks the experience and judgment to be chief executive.
Romney’s criticism centered on a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo that criticized an American-made anti-Islam video blamed for inciting the protests in Egypt and Libya. Romney’s initial statement came out before it was known that Ambassador Christopher Stevens had been killed in Benghazi.
“It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” Romney said in a statement released shortly before the end of the day Tuesday.
The Republican doubled down on Wednesday, telling reporters in Florida that Obama had sent a mixed message.
“They clearly sent mixed messages to the world and the administration, and the embassy is the administration and the statement that came from the administration is a statement that is akin to an apology and I think is a severe miscalculation,” he said.
The comments provoked Obama to shoot back that Romney had “a tendency to shoot first and aim later” that he suggested was unbecoming of one seeking the nation’s highest office.
“As president, one of the things I’ve learned is you can’t do that,” Obama told CBS in an interview set to be aired on “60 Minutes.”